Evidence of Modi govt’s misdeeds in deploying Pegasus will tumble out, just as it will in case of Rafale deal

Modi govt is likely to invoke ‘national security’ in SC in Pegasus case just as it did in Rafale case, but the labyrinths of secrecy it’s building around its activities will crumble sooner than later

Representative image
Representative image

K Raveendran

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s plea to the Supreme Court hearing the Pegasus snooping case, that he needs to obtain instructions from the Centre in the matter, amounts to virtually admitting that the government has things to hide. The Modi government’s approach in this highly sensitive issue has been suspect right from the beginning and every new development is an indirect acknowledgment that it is not above blame.

If it was ready to come clean, it had several occasions to do so, which would also have averted the logjam in Parliament’s Monsoon Session. Prime Minister Modi kept lamenting about the ‘loss’ of legislative time, but did precious little to clear the air so that normalcy could have been restored.

The government’s strategy is to somehow obstruct the Supreme Court proceedings, especially in view of the court’s remarks on the first day of the hearing that the issue seemed to be serious. The brazen attempt to buy time so that it can first avoid the embarrassment in Parliament over further adverse remarks by the court has betrayed the government’s complicity.

It was shocking that when the entire nation was waiting to hear the government’s response to the Pegasus petitions when the court took up the case, none of its law officers were present. This meant that the court had to grant the government time to come back prepared.

More diversionary tactics were on show in Parliament. A specific question was asked in the Rajya Sabha by CPI-M member Dr N Sivadasan whether the government had carried out any transaction with Israel’s NSO Group and ‘if so, the details thereof’. The answer was as much mischievous as it was misleading: the Ministry of Defence said it has not entered into any transaction with the NSO Group.

The Ministry of Defence may not be involved, but that is only a small part of the government, even if an important part. There is neither denial nor confirmation whether any other agency of the government, including the Home Ministry or the IT Ministry, was involved.

The Home Ministry under Amit Shah is not known to set store by its commitment towards the protection of individual liberties. Similarly, the IT Ministry, particularly when Ravi Shankar Prasad headed it before being dropped from the Cabinet, has shown little respect for privacy and freedom of expression, both of which are technically the primary concern of the Ministry.

The government has somehow managed to see the Monsoon Session come to a close, without a discussion on the vexed issue, but it is doubtful if it can be described as an honourable conclusion. The needle of suspicion remains pointed to where it has been ever since the news of the scandal broke out.

The next course of the government action in the Supreme Court is also predictable. The next anchor in the government’s defence is most likely to be the invocation of national security. The Modi government had used this route to stonewall further disclosures about the Rafale deal when the Supreme Court was dealing with a clutch of petitions on the controversial deal, particularly the aspects of the fighter aircraft’s final price and the alleged out of the way accommodation of Anil Ambani’s business group.

When the court overruled the government’s opposition and insisted on specific details, the government invoked confidentiality in the name of national security and submitted the information in a ‘sealed envelope’.

The contents of that envelope have not come out yet, but the announcement of a new probe into the alleged corruption and favouritism in the deal has reopened the issue in France, with the French national financial prosecutor’s office already looking into possible wrongdoings. This development is significant in view of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s relentless attack against PM Modi for allegedly reworking the terms of the deal against the country’s best interests.

The resurfacing of the Rafale scandal is yet another manifestation of the fact that it will be truth that triumphs ultimately, an aphorism that we keep invoking at all official functions in and out of context. But there is nothing yet that negates the true import of the ultimate symbol of hope.

And just as it is happening to the Rafale deal, the Modi govt’s misdeeds in the use of Pegasus to snoop on political rivals, journalists and those who may hold a contrarian opinion to it cannot be hidden by the labyrinths of secrecy that the government is building around its activities.

(IPA Service)

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